In House District 67, occupied by Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano), the margin dropped from 12,000 votes in 2016 to 1,600.
That drastic shift has invigorated Democrats across Texas, resulting in a massive influx of campaign dollars shuttled into Texas’ contested districts.
A Democratic super PAC recently announced a doubling of its Texas House-focused dollar commitment, to the tune of $12 million. HD 67 is among its targeted districts.
This time around, Leach faces challenger Lorenzo Sanchez, a realtor and progressive Democrat.
A central issue in the campaign, which has become a major theme this election season across the country, is police department funding and reform.
Leach has hit his opponent as an “anti-police zealot” for his positions on police reform, specifically restrictions on the use of force.
Sanchez hit back, accusing Leach of lying and criticizing his opposition to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.
In a mid-October candidate forum, Leach began by saying, “In this race, experience, leadership, vision, and values matter more than ever.”
Sanchez emphasized coronavirus, saying, “The main focus right now needs to be getting the pandemic under control.”
On healthcare, Sanchez trumpeted his support for expanding Medicaid. “It’s a no-brainer. We’ve lost billions of dollars over the last decade that could’ve been invested early on.”
He added, “This tax money belongs to Texans in order to pay for the Texans that need this healthcare the most.”
Medicaid expansion is one policy Texas Democrats have been advocating for years. Texas is one of 12 states that hasn’t expanded Medicaid, which would bring in more federal dollars and raise the bar to qualify for state-financed coverage.
According to a Census Bureau study, 17.7 percent of Texas residents are uninsured. — about 4.9 million Texans. But a mere 16 percent of that total would become covered by Medicaid that are not already under the Obamacare expansion. The majority of Texas’ uninsured are either ineligible due to income or citizenship status.
Original enrollment projections of Medicaid expansion under Obamacare were dwarfed by the actual totals, leading to substantially higher fiscal notes associated with the program. Texas Republicans, including Governor Greg Abbott, have opposed the expansion on those grounds.
Some dispute just how much of that financial burden is shouldered by the state, asserting that the federal government finances the majority of the program’s expansion anyway. But increased disbursements have to be financed from somewhere. And whether it is the state or federal government whose pocketbook is stretched, the financier of each is the taxpayer.
Leach voiced his opposition to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, saying, “It’s not just free money. The federal strings attached would be insurmountable and unsustainable for Texas.”
However, he added that Medicaid should be expanded “for essential services but we need to do it under a plan that works for Texas in partnership with the federal government.”
Leach then touted the state’s surprise medical billing legislation — also called “balance billing” — passed last session, which he voted for. “Balance billing” denotes the practice by which insurance companies decline to cover the full cost of a procedure, thus leading to the patient receiving a “surprise” bill after already having paid their co-pay.
The legislation removes the patient from that equation, requiring the provider and insurer to settle disputes in an arbitration process.
Leach’s most prominent accomplishment last session was his authorship of a constitutional amendment prohibition on a state income tax. It passed overwhelmingly by voters in 2019.
He is endorsed by a bevy of Collin County officials, numerous police and fire organizations, and the Texas Alliance for Life.
Sanchez, meanwhile, is endorsed by a host of national and state progressive organizations including the gun control group Brady PAC, the environmental group Sierra Club, and the pro-choice group National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL).
On the state level, he’s received support from the Texas State Teachers Association and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Texas.
Since his Democratic runoff win, Sanchez has closed Leach’s fundraising gap. In total, Sanchez has pulled in roughly $815,000 to Leach’s nearly $900,000 haul.
Down the stretch, Leach has $485,000 cash-on-hand to Sanchez’s $234,000.
Leach first won the seat in 2012 and was part of the conservative Texas House Freedom Caucus during the 85th session until he left in 2018.
The district has an R-55% rating according to The Texan’s Texas Partisan Index, meaning HD 67 leans Republican by five percentage points based on 2016 and 2018 voting trends.
Neither candidate returned requests for an interview by the time of publishing.
Disclosure: Unlike almost every other media outlet, The Texan is not beholden to any special interests, does not apply for any type of state or federal funding, and relies exclusively on its readers for financial support. If you’d like to become one of the people we’re financially accountable to, click here to subscribe.
Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.